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Fried, and still fresh

TIME:2019/8/16 11:46:43

https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/vegetables-get-a-vacuum-fried-makeover/article22979980.ece

 

Vacuum frying technology packs in the flavour and colour of food, and is slowly becoming the buzzword. What makes it so special?

Sometime in 2002, cashew farmer Kishore Kumar Kodgi, now 62, was in Osaka for a global food fair as part of a four-member Cashew Export Promotion Council delegation. He was looking around the exhibition, spread over more than five acres, when a familiar scent beckoned.

Back home in Amasebail in Karnataka, young Kishores childhood was scented with jackfruit, mangoes and all things that grow along the coastal belt. Resourceful parents cooked the fruit into myriad dishes steamed them, put them into gravies, made desserts, patted them into papads, or turned them into the spicy sonte: finger-length strips of raw, fried jackfruit.

In Osaka, Japan, Kishore tasted a fried version that retained the brilliant yellow hue of the fruit. The stall from Taiwan also displayed shrimp, banana and other fruits and vegetables that had been fried.

Only, they took up less oil, were crispier, and burst with flavour. That was his first introduction to the technique of vacuum frying, which uses lower pressure and temperature (95°C - 120°C) to fry vegetables and fruits. The traditional method of deep frying, crisps food, but also changes its colour and reduces flavour.

Today, his Gokul Fruits in Kallinjeddu, near Udupi, manufactures nearly 2,500 kilograms of fried chickpea and two tonnes of ladys finger or okra a month, among other fruits and vegetables, on two Japanese plants, in a nearly 20,000 sq ft factory that operates day and night. The chickpeas are crisp, and once bitten into, melt in the mouth. The spiced okra makes for a great snack while going easy on the oil, and the jackfruit brings back memories of summer holidays and glorious monsoons.

Not alone

Far away from Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka, Pune-based Ajit Soman, 56, wanted to veer off the beaten track. He had worked in the paint industry for 30 years, and started a restaurant as a passion project. He travelled to Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Dubai to explore vacuum fried foods. Sampling chips made of jackfruit, mango, chickoo, papaya, apples and carrot, he considered replicating the system back home. He set up Future Tech Foods India about five years ago, imported machinery from Singapore, and started retailing under the Chopinz brand (that is available on amazon.in).

He also makes machinery that helps with the technology and retails it. Do you know that Malaysia processes more than 80% of its fruits and vegetables? So much of fruit and vegetable goes waste here. This technology has the potential to benefit farmers.

At a time when the snacks market has come to mean deep-fried goodies, where the fat content can be as high as 44% (potato chips), this technology promises a fat content below 20%, depending on the raw material.

One distinct disadvantage in this technology is the increased cost. But that, both Soman and Kishore say, will only be the case till more companies enter the fray. With some fruits and vegetables, the ratio of raw material to finished product is 5:1. In jackfruit and mango, the yield is just six to seven per cent. So, the cost is bound to be high. But, if you eat 35 grams of carrot chips, it gives you the nourishment equal to 250 grams of the fresh vegetable,says Soman.

Sukumar Debnath, principal scientist, Department of Technology Scale-up, CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysuru, says the institute has developed and installed a vacuum frying system of 10 kilogram capacity to manufacture healthy chips and savoury snacks.

Other than the apparent advantages, he says it inhibits lipid oxidation. This results in potato chips with significant reduction (97%) in a carcinogenic substance called acrylamide, and also reduces the rate of degradation of fruits and vegetables.

Soman started selling online six months ago, and says hes impressed with the response. He sources quality jackfruit, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, and organic okra. Even jackfruit seed is vacuum-fried and coated with chocolate made by a local unit. He has also fried mushroom and garlic, among other things, and exported them to the US and UK, besides Iran, which loves both fresh banana and the fried version.

But, his passion is enabling others to own vacuum frying machines, so that local fruits and vegetables can travel to homes elsewhere in the fried format.

The health factor

Another home-grown brand is Narendra Babus Favourite Foods, also from Karnataka (Kundapur). He started vacuum frying a year ago, because he wanted to create a line of snacks for health-conscious people.

This health aspect of vacuum frying is something that is met with scepticism, but in 2011, an article published in Journal of Food Science by V Dueik and P Bouchon of the Department of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, said that vacuum-fried carrot and potato chips absorbed about 50% less oil than atmospheric-fried chips.

This is a premium product and people will buy it only if they are convinced,says Babu. This is also probably why the market is focussed on metro cities, and foreign countries.

For Gokul Fruits, the bestseller is their delicately spiced whole okra. Director Rohith Kodgi says that while it is possible to experiment with any fruit the company tried frying black grapes and pricing it at 1,500 a kilogeam and baby corn at 1,200 a kilogram the market is still an emerging one, and needs to pick up pace.

Its also a matter of taste. Once you get used to the crunch of vacuum-fried chickpeas, and start eating okra or mango chips as an evening snack, you just might be tempted to make the shift, even if it leaves the purse just a little lighter.

Benefits

·Packs in colour, aroma, nutrients and flavour.

·Can be used to prolong the shelf life of any fruit, vegetable, fungi or tuber that can be cut.

·Helps reduce food waste during periods of generous yield.